The fireworks started early Friday night on Homecoming night at St. Joseph High School’s ended.
The evening ended with St. Joseph posting a dominating 49-14 victory in a Mountain League match-up against the Atascadero Greyhounds.
It was also the Knights’ Senior night.
After a brief fireworks show, St. Joseph introduced its 21 seniors.
The on-field fireworks began with the game’s opening play when the Knights’ Darien Langley hauled in the kickoff at the 10 yard line, angled to the right sideline and was off for a 36-yard gain before the Greyhounds’ Tyler Cronkright made a touchdown-saving tackle.
It took the Knights seven plays to cover the remaining 54 yards with St. Joseph quarterback Chase Artopoeus finishing it off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Cole — the first of four Artopoeus TD passes on the night.
Nathan Halsell’s point after kick made it 7-0 with 9:21 left in the first quarter.
“We talked about getting a fast start,” said St. Joseph head coach Pepe Villasenor. “Having a sense of urgency, establishing out tempo at the beginning is very critical.”
But the Greyhounds had their own fireworks display in mind.
On their first offensive play, quarterback Wesley Cooper found Seth Fingerson open over the middle and rifled a strike — the catch and run was good for 54 yards.
Seven plays later, Stephen Reyes pounded the ball into the end zone from one yard out and, with Anthony Reynoso’s kick, the score was tied 7-all with 5:55 left in the first.
“We had a promising start. It just didn’t last,” said Atascadero head coach Vic Cooper.
“Our defense came up big,” said Villasenor. “We made some adjustments after their first score. We’re seeing a lot of young men on this team coming into their own.”
The Knights marched right back down field but after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, found themselves with a fourth-and-18 from Atascadero’s 33.
Halsell came on to attempt a 50-yard field goal. His kick had the distance but bounced off the right goal post and back onto the playing field.
After quickly forcing a Greyhounds’ punt, St. Joseph had good field position at the Atascadero 43.
Four plays later, Artopoeus found Cole on a crossing route over the middle. Cole caught the ball at the five and raced between two defensive backs into the end zone for a 14-7 St. Joseph lead with 43 seconds left in the quarter.
On the first play of their next drive, Artopoeus hit Langley with a 62-yard touchdown pass.
It took three plays to score the next time the Knights had the ball.
Miles Enos caught an Artopoeus pass at the Atascadero 45. He was blasted by the defensive back but somehow kept his balance, shook off the tackle and raced down the right sideline to complete a 59-yard catch-and-run to put the Knights up 28-7 with 7:26 remaining in the half.
The Knights made it 35-7 on Atascadero’s next possession.
The Knights’ Michael Madrigal scooped up a Greyhounds’ fumble and was free to scamper 29 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 35-7 St. Joseph lead with 6:51 until the break.
The Knights then forced another Atascadero punt.
On their first play of the ensuing drive, Langley got the ball on a sweep to the left. He was hit at the sideline, spun out of it and headed back to the center of the field, gaining 18-yards before finally being brought down.
A fumble ended that drive but didn’t stop St. Joseph from scoring one more first half touchdown.
After stopping the Greyhounds cold, and with 1:57 until halftime, the Knights began an 8-play scoring drive.
Devin Guggia caught an 18-yard pass.
Langley again split two Atascadero defenders and caught a 39-yard pass.
Artopoeus scrambled for 13 setting up a Madrigal 1-yard touchdown run, giving the Knights a 42-7 lead with 33 seconds left in the half.
At halftime, Charlee Enos was named the Homecoming Queen, setting off a second and much larger fireworks show. The King will be crowned during Saturday night’s homecoming dance.
The Knights kept their starters in long enough for Halsell to try a 54-yard field goal that was blocked in the third quarter.
Atascadero’s Gabriel Sandoval scored on a 3-yard run late in the third quarter to make the score 42-14.
St. Joseph’s Billy Collins had the game’s final score on a 12-yard run with 33-seconds left in the third.
The Knights had Justin Maldonado in at quarterback for that score.
There was a running clock for the fourth quarter when St. Joseph’s Enos intercepted Cooper on Atascadero’s next drive.
And with Ben Camarena coming on to quarterback St. Joseph, got the ball down to the Atascadero 15 but, in a show of good sportsmanship, Villasenor had Camarena take a knee on fourth down with 6:30 left in the game.
Atascadero then ran out the clock with a series of running plays.
“We gave them a good fight,” said Cooper. “We got banged up a little but we’ll be ready for next week.”
“You have to give Atascadero credit,” said Villasenor. “Those kids fought hard all night. They played hard regardless of the score. I have to tip my hat to those kids, their head coach and his staff.”
Atascadero (0-7, 0-2 Mountain) visits Arroyo Grande next Friday night.
St. Joseph (6-2, 2-0) is also on the road at Paso Robles.